Buried Secrets

While working with clients in a court-mandated anger management course, one of the surprising things we learned, (as some volunteered to share with us) was the fact that so many of them had experienced the same family characteristic– secrets! We were shocked to see this apparent connection between family secrets and dangerous anger.

We recently completed a 2-day trip from Beijing to Xi’an where we saw the 2,200 year-old terracotta warriors with our son, Jeremy, and his wife Rozana. We were amazed to learn the lengths to which China’s first emperor Qin Shi Huang went in order to keep a big secret– that he had built an extensive underground world, a massive tomb mirroring his above-ground world.

How did he keep the site secret? He killed anyone who knew about it! Workers who brought the life-sized army, horses, chariots and weapons to the site were tragically buried alive with them. Thousands of concubines, those failing to produce children for the young emperor, were also buried alive and the entire site was buried many meters deep.

In 1974, farmers in the area were digging a well and came across some pieces of the buried army. Today, a massive archaeological effort is still underway, and apparently most of the site is still buried.

It makes one wonder: Who and what do we sacrifice in order to keep secrets? The motivation for most family secrets is “protection.” In our experience, when we try to protect those whose actions should not be condoned, we end up violating or betraying others. At the risk of sounding overly dramatic: when we bury our secrets we need to ask ourselves who is being buried alive with them.

Pit #1 of 3. A very small section of the massive first pit.
An actual hospital bed is used to perform “surgery” on broken terracotta warriors.
archaeologists working on the terracotta horses
Terracotta horses with carriage
Even the age lines are showing on this warrior. Every warrior was hand-crafted and unique.

California or China?

China Foreign Affairs University took several foreign teachers on a weekend trip to Qingdao (or Tsingdao). Sometimes, we couldn’t tell if we were in southern California or China. Our highlights start out with an amazing harbor light show that surpasses any we’ve seen in Asia. Among other things, exterior building lights showed dolphins and whales “swimming” from one building to another in a coordinated show of lights.

Next, we hit the beach and found many surprises.

LaoShan is a massive park devoted to remembering Laozu, the founder of China’s only native religion–Taoism (pronounced Dow-ism). Laozu lived in approximately 600 BC and his sayings have been revered for many centuries. Laozu himself emphasized the bond between heaven and earth, and his sayings promote peace and non-interference. This cite features the world’s largest statue of Laozu and a circular temple with a scene of creation and stars in the cosmos inside. It was incredible.

Guess what? More beach fun!

L to R: Lynn Li Wei (our University Liaison, and acrobatics champion?), Julian (she doesn’t normally look like this), Laraine (looking oddly frightened), Chuck (got the most height, obviously), Cory (like he’s being lifted up to the mother ship), Marcus (not sure what he’s going for here), Dan Rong (Dept. Supervisor and apparent cheerleader), Mike (proving that “white people” really can’t jump)

The food was incredible.

Back at the main pier, the tide was low but the hope of getting some crabs was high. This is a favorite local past-time.

On a hilltop, you can enter a revolving lookout station and view the harbor, the surrounding hills and even the governor’s mansion. Qingdao is known for its clear weather, red roofs and greenery.

It’s fun to interact with the locals, especially the children.

Let’s Go Fly a Kite!

Our university sponsored our attendance at a Saturday morning International Kite Flying event in Beijing on Saturday, May 4, 2019.

Only problem? Not much wind . . but our moods were certainly soaring! We learned something about flying a kite with very little wind: it’s all about HOPE. Every time you lift that kite into the air, start to run, and let out the string, you are filled with hope that THIS time will be the magical moment when the kite takes off. We got to learn from a master kite-maker and make our own kites while watching teams of kite enthusiasts attempting to get giant kites aloft.

Ruth Ann and Mike Martin brought their daughter Stacy, her husband Joseph, and their two little kids. They were a hit with the media.

International Kite Event in Beijing.(L to R): Joseph, Lynn (our University Liaison), Marcus, Ruth Ann, Eli (child), Mike, Luke (child), Stacy, Chuck, Laraine, Cory
A Master Kite Maker at Work
Chuck builds his kite with a little help from the master.
Lynn brought her mother–a very sweet lady. This was during a Labor Day holiday in Beijing.
A giant kite couldn’t quite make it off the ground.

Ever Wonder Where the Great Wall Ends? We Found it!

A group of us sat around one day and said, “Hey, where does China’s great wall end, anyway?” Next thing you know, we found the end–where the great wall hits the ocean. Check out these pics:

LaoLungTou (Old Dragon’s Head” is the name of the spot where the wall meets the ocean.
Chuck and Laraine Chamberlain at LaoLungTou (Old Dragon’s Head)
The Great Wall descending from the nearby hills on it’s way to the ocean. In the foreground, the “Great Wall” is more like mounds of dirt. You can see how the wall disappears. Then, closer to the ocean, it was restored.
This is an original part of the wall that led to the water. Many parts of the wall have had the bricks removed to use for other projects

Our trip included fun in the sun and sand at the beach, waiting in a visitor’s waiting room to cool off after our long trek, colorful kites, antique doors, the Goddess of the Sea, various historical figures, and even a very tall city wall connecting to the Great Wall.

The Motley Crew outside our university excited to get on the bus and head out to see where the Great Wall ends. (L to R): Kevin, Joseph, Eli (child), Mike, Stacey, Ruth Ann, Laraine, Ryan, Harris, Sai, “Zhurki”, Luke (child), Chris, Chuck

Sculpture Park in Beijing

A beautiful sculpture park is found just 45 minutes away from our apartment (by bicycle). We’ve been there a couple of times. The sculptures are amazing–from various parts of the world. Here are just a few:

beautiful blossoms
Beautiful blossoms were out in the spring at Beijing’s Sculpture Park
I have to say I haven’t seen works of art quite like this before.
This park has a little amusement park for the children so here is a ride for your child… Not sure kids want to ride with a guy like that……

A Star is Born

A Star is Born

Our university invited us to attend a conference in a “small” town of just 1.2 million people. We accepted the invitation and soon found that we were the guests of honor (token Americans) at a huge “friendship walk” in central China. In XinYang, we were “wined and dined,” put up in a 5-star hotel, and treated like royalty.

At the Opening Ceremonies, we were escorted into a stadium filled with thousands of cheering people. I was given a red jacket with a Chinese flag over my heart, and put on stage with about 11 other foreigners. They introduced me as a distinguished teacher from America while thousands of people cheered, a half-dozen drones flew around our heads, taking pictures, and television cameras recorded everything.

When it came time to leave on the 13 Km walk, we were mobbed by people wanting our picture. Even as we walked away and came to a small village, I stopped to stretch and young boys pulled out their phones to get pictures. My memory is bending over at the waist to stretch my hamstring while a young boy laid on the ground, peering up at my sagging red face with his camera a few inches from my nose. I don’t even want to see that picture. — Chuck Chamberlain

Key to pictures below: 1) Pic with host at dinner 2) Another host at dinner 3) host with Lynne, our school liaison 4) on our walk, these men stared very intently at us, and it seemed they had never seen an American in person. We asked to take their picture 5) workers harvesting tea leaves -so beautiful 6) more greenery on our walk 7) Card playing in hotel lobby, two girls from Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan joined us 8) Fellow teacher, Cory, is very tall and a magnet for picture taking 9) little guy and his mom very curious about us 10) trying to stretch, missed the best picture of the boy on the ground getting my face as I bent over 11) forming C-F-A-U with our fingers 12) Introduced as a high muckety muck 13) fellow big shots on stage 14) One of the many drones getting our picture 15) With fellow big shots 16)Chuck, Laraine, Lynn, Cory, and a local helper 17) in our hotel lobby

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Life as a guest big shot “foreigner” can be exhausting
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GuBei You Say? A Chinese “Water Town”

GuBei You Say? A Chinese “Water Town”

Key to images above:

  1. Water Town scene
  2. Water Town scene
  3. Odd figure outside a pub and pizza place in GuBei
  4. “Foreign” teachers from CFAU on our excursion to GuBei, including Chinese Opera Stars
  5. When you see a giraffe leaning against a wall, you just gotta follow suit, right?
  6. Where they dye cloth
  7. Where they dye cloth, and two mysterious creatures hiding in the cloth.
  8. More cloth
  9. Marcus Freitas (from Brazil), Ruth Ann Martin (South Africa), Cory (from Utah) all teaching here at CFAU
  10. A rare scene of outrageous affection
  11. Where they make the wine
  12. Where they make the wine (we tried to let them down easy that “no, we don’t even want a sample.”
  13. Scene within the GuBei town.

Chuck and Laraine Back for a Hong Kong Visit

Laraine presented at the Asia Women’s Conference in Hong Kong. Because Chuck is absolutely nuts about Hong Kong, he could not be left behind. Between sessions of the conference, Chuck and Laraine renewed friendships. It was a truly relaxing and enjoyable trip. Unfortunately, due to some technical issues, not all of their visits were captured in pictures.

No trip to Hong Kong would be complete without a visit with Diana from the tiny fishing village–Tai O Village. Here we had lunch with her and her husband, Albert, while she described the rebuilding efforts following last year’s horrible typhoon. She basically lost her home and had to rebuild it, a little higher this time.
Chuck, Albert, Diana, Laraine
Our dear friend, Annie Wong, is now Public Affairs Director for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Asia. We are excited about the job she’s doing. What a strength and wealth of experience she brings!
Some of the attendees at the Asia Women’s Conference, 2019. Theme: “In His strength we can do all things.”
How cool is that! We got to touch base again with the Filipinas in Hong Kong
Not all change is good. Here, we came across our favorite hamburger joint, “Big Bite” that used to serve Canadian cuisine. Now, it’s closed down as they replace it with something else. Chuck’s face shows the depth of his hunger for a Canadian hamburger.
The Beijing Connection. These women are all currently living in Beijing or have recently lived in Beijing. (L to R: Isabelle Berrios, Janet Steele, Leah Reid, Laraine Chamberlain, Jana Ewing, Sharae Forsyth, Robyn Bergstrom)
Former member of Hong Kong’s Public Affairs committee, Esther Lau (now Esther Yip). Esther was a sweetheart as she helped us “learn the ropes” when we came to Hong Kong as Public Affairs Specialists. She is due to deliver a baby any time now!!
Dear friend, Cora Wong (Pollard)

Mexican lunch with the Pollards in Wanchai. Great friendships are priceless!

Why Do the Chinese Butt in Line?

My wife and I recently stood in line at an American-style fast-food burger shop in Beijing. When it was finally our turn, we reached for the laminated menu card near the cash register and started looking at the menu options. Out of nowhere, a young man pushed forward, grabbed the menu out of our hands, and started giving his order to the cashier. That’s when I reached over, quickly slipped the card out of his hands and blocked his view of the cashier with my body while we proceeded to order.  

This wasn’t the first time we had encountered this kind of behavior during our stay in China. In fact, over the 18 months since arriving in Beijing from America, we’ve seen it nearly every day in various situations and venues–from train ticket queues to subways to grocery stores to airplanes. Everywhere we’ve turned, we’ve noticed locals who do not seem to accept or honor the concept of “wait your turn.”

We enjoy talking about cultural differences with our Chinese friends. One friend, a medical doctor, heard me lament about this encounter. He thought for a moment, then proposed a possible explanation. Recent research into an emerging field called “epigenetics” indicates that animals and human beings may pass along ancestral memories via their genes. In short, our behaviors, attitudes and preferences may be greatly influenced by environmental factors suffered by our ancestors. He postulated that trauma from serious famine in China’s past may now be to blame for an unreasonable feeling of urgency, pushing a person to skip ahead of others in line to be the first served.

I believe that whatever experiences we’ve had, or whatever traumas our progenitors may have suffered, we do have the ability and responsibility to overcome our own programming to act in ways socially acceptable in the current environment. We cannot blame our genes for bad behavior. However, the doctor’s explanation has caused me to re-think my own responses to these behaviors. Instead of reacting with irritation, I am now more likely to feel compassion for those whose genes might nudge them to move ahead of me in line. If echoes of China’s past whisper to the person behind me that he is starving, I may see his behavior differently and choose to respond accordingly.